Sunday, March 27, 2011

B-Mor7 and the Jewish Problem

Here's a great hip-hop track I found recently on bandcamp. The track is "The Jewish Problem" by the up and coming, Rhode Island based, hip-hop artist B-Mor7. While B-Mor7s tracks take on a range of subjects, The Jewish Problem is front and center personal response to the Shoah. While there's no shortage of Holocause related rock, pop, and hip-hop tracks, there's a sense of raw personal impact in the lyrics and delivery that jumps it up to front rank. Check it out...

B-Mor7 - The Jewish Problem

B-Mor7's pretty new and doesn't have a lot of interview or bio material out there, so I caught up with her via email to get sense of where she's coming from and where she's going.
Teruah: So...are you from Rhode Island originally? (FYI I'm from CT and used to go Providence for shows all the time. Mostly to punk shows at club called The Living Room, which probably isn't there anymore.)

B-Mor7: I’m from RI, I grew up in Edgewood (Cranston) and now I reside in Pawtucket. But I’ve spent most of my life in Providence (Divine Guidance) volunteering, working, performing and just hanging out.

Teruah: You mentioned (in an earlier email) that you play jazz and blues too, but the Magma Music v2 bandcamp tracks are all hip hop. Is hip-hop your main focus right now? On the bandcamp tracks are you mainly doing the rap or are you producing the tracks too?

B-Mor7: Yes, Hip Hop and Spoken Word Poetry. Everyone thinks I make beats but it’s actually the one thing I don’t do. I like to get tracks from a lot of different producers, some local and some international. I produce the album in terms of the lyrics, concepts, samples, guest appearances; but don’t actually create the beats themselves.

Teruah: Are you gigging at all? What kind of shows are doing? I saw your poetry on your website, are you doing any poetry slams? I used to do lot of them in CT.

B-Mor7: I was doing a some poetry slams but I’m not really into that right now because there isn’t a venue. I perform a lot of spoken word at different events though, mostly on college campuses or as intros to my Hip Hip performances. As for gigging I had a cd release party recently where I performed 2 sets and shared a venue with Chachi and his band Afrika Rainbow. They were amazing! Most of my shows are in the Providence/Pawtucket area but I’m branching out now into Boston as well. I’ll be opening for an amazing 9 piece female percussion band called Zili this week; they perform all over Boston on a regular basis. I’ve also collaborated with a lot of artists down south, in the Midwest and California. I hope to do more shows out there at some point.

Teruah: On the Magma Music 2, Jewish Problem was the only one that seems specifically Jewish themed. Is that right?

B-Mor7: Yes, actually on Magma Musik 1 I have a song called Evil Never Dies where I say a couple of lines in Hebrew but other than that I don’t have other Jewish themed music. The reason is complicated.

Teruah: How did you come to write The Jewish Problem? Are you Jewish yourself?

B-Mor7: I am half Jewish. Well, on my mom’s side so according to Jewish law I’m fully Jewish but my dad is not and I wasn’t raised Jewish. I visited my Bubby and Zady in Baltimore as a kid but I was not raised religious or celebrating most of the holidays. The main thing I remember is celebrating Hanukkah with my mom and singing the song in Hebrew; she was surprised I always remembered it year to year. The other thing I remember was very painful for me, which is why it took me so long to write the Jewish Problem song. When I was about 13 my mom told me that her relatives during the Holocaust were taken (the entire village) into a synagogue and burned alive. The only reason why I am here today is because her grandmother as a teenager had a lot of determination to come to America. Somehow she made it here and escaped the fate of her family. This touched me very deeply and caused me to hold a lot of pain inside. I couldn’t deal with it right away. It took me years to even face it and several more years to address it through writing which is usually how I deal with my feelings and express myself.

Teruah: How do you connect with being Jewish?

B-Mor7: As I got older I wanted to know more about my Jewish heritage and I began to look into it on my own. I found out about a workshop at a Jewish organization that combined painting with the sefirah (tree of life). This intrigued me and I started to look into Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism. I also linked up with some students from Brown University at the Hillel house where we embarked on an esoteric practice of Counting the Omer, 49 Days of Self-Refinement. In the midst of this I was reading more about the Holocaust and about my specific situation to get information about my history. This all culminated in the writing of the Jewish Problem, a song I was working out in my head for years and then finally got it down on paper and onto audio. It’s a powerful track that includes information on my background but also what Jews have faced.

Teruah: Any other aspects of your background that are important to your identity?

B-Mor7: Yes, Hip Hop culture runs through my being; within this I’ve incorporated African and African-American history and culture into everything I do. In fact, it’s what I currently teach at Rhode Island College. I am also extremely involved in Asian philosophy and culture. This includes becoming a yoga teacher and studying Sanskit, Hinduism, Buddhism and Vedanta. I also grew up with Lao and Cambodian people and recently traveled to Laos so I’ve studied the language and culture there as well. I’m also interested in “Latin” America and the Caribbean and I’m trying to learn Spanish. I even rap in Spanish sometimes and I’m trying to do more of this. One group (made up of many nations) that is typically marginalized are the “Native Americans”. I have many friends from different indigenous communities and I’m involved in Pow-Wow’s (Native gatherings) where there is a lot of drumming. Connecting with all of these rich cultures, histories and struggles have made me into the strong person I am today and have influenced my music tremendously. Although there are differences there is something spiritual that unites oppressed peoples. I find this connection through music. One of my goals is to create a fusion Hip Hop cd that combines my lyrics with different genres of traditional and indigenous music. I’ve already experimented with this with Middle Eastern, Cambodian and Indian music. I can’t wait to start recording! I’m probably going to do some punk/hip hop blends as well with live bands.

Teruah: Sounds great. Reminds me a lot of Ylove. I'll have to introduce you. How did your crew and audience respond Jewish Problem? Do you find they relate to it? (I'm guessing that they’re mostly not Jewish, is that right?)

B-Mor7: I’ve had this song for a few years but it was just released recently so not too many people have heard it. The ones who have are amazed by it and think it is awesome. They also say people aren’t ready to hear it yet…I don’t know if I’m ready to perform it. I read it once for a group I used to work with and it was very emotional for me to do that.

Teruah: Your song is very much its own, but it covers similar ground to Remedy's Never Again. Are you familiar with it?

B-Mor7: No, but I’d love to check it out.

Teruah: There's something about hip-hop (as well as punk, which is more my music) that’s great for music about defiance

B-Mor7: Yes!

Teruah: Both your and Remedy's raps really show a raw nerve. The Shoah was three generations ago. Lots of American Jews think of it as ancient history. How come it's so raw for you? (Let's be clear...I applaud you for it. Just asking.)

B-Mor7: That’s a good question. Several reasons. For one thing, 3 generations ago is not ancient history. Especially when it translates as me not being able to know my ancestors as well. Most people I know have large families. I don’t. This made me feel disconnected from my family, and my past. You also mentioned defiance. I’ve always been curious about the persistent defiance, rebellion and revolt of oppressed peoples throughout the world because these are the stories that exist but are usually ignored or pushed under the rug when history is taught and they are so important to our quest for humanity. When I started to record the Jewish Problem I stumbled across a trailer for the movie Defiance (a film about Jews who fled into the woods and fought off the Nazis) and the synchronized was perfect. I couldn’t wait for the movie to come out (a year later) but it gave me even more inspiration, information and ideas for my song. I even sampled a couple of lines from the trailer to place in my song for dramatic effect. As for hip-hop and punk music, in its purest form it is very defiant by nature. I definitely exude this essence in my music, lyrics and stage performance. It even shows in my studio name “Outlaw Culture”.
For more info check out B-Mor7's website and bandcamp site.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

Thanks for the exposure and interview! If anyone has anymore questions for me please send me an e-mail